IFRC


Liberia: Families face hardship and separation

Published: 6 April 2011 15:33 CET

By Benoit Matsha-Carpentier in Liberia

Toe Town is about 35 kilometres from the Côte d’Ivoire border in the middle of deep equatorial rain forest. The latest developments in the Côte d’Ivoire crisis have led many more people to run for their lives and cross the border into Liberia.

Bob and Mathurin crossed the border a couple of weeks ago. They are both volunteers from the Côte d’Ivoire Red Cross. They had to leave their home and their family because of the fighting in their home town of Toulepleu. When they arrived in Liberia, they both decided to help others and registered themselves with the local authorities, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UNHCR.

“We wanted to help, because all these people are from our communities and it is easier for us to communicate with them,” says Bob.

Bob and Mathurin’s mission is to trace lost children who ran from their villages without their families. Since the beginning of the crisis, more than 115 children have been registered as being alone without their families.

“Only yesterday, we managed to reunite four children with their families,” says Mathurin. “We are very proud to be able to help these children and our communities,” he adds.

But the situation is a complex one and, unfortunately, not all stories have a happy ending. Not only are these refugees facing a lack of food, water and a lack of healthcare, they are also having to deal with a lack of information about the people they had to leave behind.

“We don’t have any information about what is going on behind the border,” says one refugee. “Today, after four days of searching, I found out that my father died in the forest on his way to the border. That is why I shaved my head. That’s what we do when one loses one’s father.”

The Liberian Red Cross is continuing to work with ICRC to restore family links by offering telephone calls and sending messages to reconnect families separated by the crisis.

The situation at the border is unpredictable and unstable. Most of the refugees are living with host families, putting a huge strain on already limited resources. The humanitarian implications of this crisis for thousands of refugees and the host communities are serious and the ongoing situation is one of great concern.




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